Snap is being probed over its IPO because some investors are salty about losing money

Here’s something I didn’t expect to read today. The U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed Snap for details on its IPO apparently in connection with a lawsuit from disgruntled shareholders who claim the company played down its rivalry with Instagram.

Reuters first reported on the subpoenas which Snap has confirmed. Precise details aren’t clear at this point but Snap told Reuters that the probe is likely “related to the previously disclosed allegations asserted in the class action about our IPO disclosures.” Snap went public last March with sharing popping over 40 percent on its debut to give it a valuation of $30 billion. It’s market cap today is a more modest $8.9 billion due to numerous factors including, most prominently, the efforts of rival Facebook to compete with Instagram, which has rolled out a series of features that mimic Snap’s core user
Continue reading "Snap is being probed over its IPO because some investors are salty about losing money"

Facebook’s GraphQL gets its own open source foundation

GraphQL, the Facebook -incubated data query language, is moving into its own open source foundation. Like so many other similar open source foundation, the aptly named GraphQL Foundation will be hosted by the Linux Foundation.

Facebook announced GraphQL back in 2012 and open sourced it in 2015. Today, it’s being used by companies that range from Airbnb to Audi, Github, Nextifx, Shopify, Twitter and the New York Times. At Facebook itself, the GraphQL API powers billions of API calls every day. At its core, GraphQL is basically a language for querying databases from client-side applications and a set of specifications for how the API on the backend should present this data to the client. It presents an alternative to REST-based APIs and promises to offer developers more flexibility and the ability to write faster and more secure applications. Virtually every major programming language now supports it through a variety of
Continue reading "Facebook’s GraphQL gets its own open source foundation"

Bots Distorted the 2016 Election. Will the Midterms Be a Sequel?

The fact that Russian-linked bots penetrated social media to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been well documented and the details of the deception are still trickling out.

In fact, on Oct. 17 Twitter disclosed that foreign interference dating back to 2016 involved 4,611 accounts — most affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm. There were more than 10 million suspicious tweets and more than 2 million GIFs, videos and Periscope broadcasts.

In this season of another landmark election — a recent poll showed that about 62 percent of Americans believe the 2018 midterm elections are the most important midterms in their lifetime – it is

Continue reading "Bots Distorted the 2016 Election. Will the Midterms Be a Sequel?"

Facebook’s election interference problem exponentially worse on eve of midterms, study suggests

An analysis of political advertisers running extensive campaigns on Facebook targeting users in the United States over the past six months has flagged a raft of fresh concerns about its efforts to tackle election interference — suggesting the social network’s self regulation is offering little more than a sham veneer of accountability.

Dig down and all sorts of problems and concerns become apparent, according to new research conducted by Jonathan Albright, of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Where’s the recursive accountability?

Albright timed the research project to cover the lead up to the US midterms, which represent the next major domestic test of Facebook’s democracy-denting platform — though this time it appears that homegrown disinformation is as much, if not more, in the frame than Kremlin-funded election fiddling.

Twitter removes thousands of accounts that tried to dissuade Democrats from voting

Twitter has deleted thousands of automated accounts posting messages that tried to discourage and dissuade voters from casting their ballot in the upcoming election next week.

Some 10,000 accounts were removed across late September and early October after they were first flagged by staff at the Democratic Party, the company has confirmed. “We removed a series of accounts for engaging in attempts to share disinformation in an automated fashion – a violation of our policies,” said a Twitter spokesperson in an email to TechCrunch. “We stopped this quickly and at its source.” But the company did not provide examples of the kinds of accounts it removed, or say who or what might have been behind the activity. The accounts posed as Democrats and try to convince key demographics to stay at home and not vote, likely as an attempt to sway the results in key election battlegrounds, according to
Continue reading "Twitter removes thousands of accounts that tried to dissuade Democrats from voting"

Twitter hires God-is Rivera as global director of culture and community

Twitter has brought on its first-ever global director of culture and community, God-is Rivera. As global director of culture and community, Rivera will report to Global Head of Culture, Engagement and Experiential Nola Weinstein. Rivera previously led internal diversity and inclusion efforts at VMLY&R, a digital and creative agency.

“As a black woman who has worked in industries in which I have been underrepresented, I feel a great responsibility to amplify and support diverse communities, and they exist in full force on Twitter,” Rivera said in a statement. “The team has shown a passion to serve and spotlight their most active users and I am honored to step into this new role as a part of that commitment.” For context, 26 percent of U.S. adults who identify as black use Twitter, while 24 percent of white-identified adults and 20 percent of Latinx-identified adults in the U.S. use Twitter, according
Continue reading "Twitter hires God-is Rivera as global director of culture and community"

Twitter tests homescreen button to easily switch to reverse chronological

Twitter is digging one of its most important new features out of its settings and putting it within easy reach. Twitter is now testing with a small number of iOS users a homescreen button that lets you instantly switch from its algorithmic timeline that shows the best tweets first but out of order to the old reverse chronological feed that only shows people you follow — no tweets liked by friends or other randomness.

Twitter had previously buried this option in its settings. In mid-September, it fixed the setting so it would only show a raw reverse chronological

Continue reading "Twitter tests homescreen button to easily switch to reverse chronological"

Twitter’s spam reporting tool now lets you specify type, including if it’s a fake account

Twitter is adding more nuance to its spam reporting tools, the company announced today. Instead of simply flagging a tweet as posting spam, users can now specify what kind of spam you’re seeing by way of a new menu of choices. Among these is the option to report spam you believe to be from a fake Twitter account.

Now, when you tap the “Report Tweet” option and choose “It’s suspicious or spam” from the first menu, you’re presented with a new selection of choices where you can pick what kind of spam the tweet contains. Here, you can pick from options that specify if the tweet is posting a malicious link of some kind, if it’s from a fake account, if it’s using the Reply function to send spam, or if it’s using unrelated hashtags. These last two tricks are regularly used by spammers to increase the visibility of their
Continue reading "Twitter’s spam reporting tool now lets you specify type, including if it’s a fake account"

Twitter’s U.S. midterms hub is a hot mess

Today, Jack Dorsey tweeted a link to his company’s latest gesture toward ongoing political relevance, a U.S. midterms news center collecting “the latest news and top commentary” on the country’s extraordinarily consequential upcoming election. If curated and filtered properly, that could be useful! Imagine. Unfortunately, rife with fake news, the tool is just another of Twitter’s small yet increasingly consequential disasters.

Beyond a promotional tweet from Dorsey, Twitter’s new offering is kind of buried — probably for the best. On desktop it’s a not particularly useful mash of national news reporters, local candidates and assorted unverifiable partisans. As Buzzfeed news details, the tool is swimming with conspiracy theories, including ones involving the migrant caravan. According to his social media posts, the Pittsburgh shooter was at least partially motivated by similar conspiracies, so this is

Continue reading "Twitter’s U.S. midterms hub is a hot mess"

Twitter suspends accounts linked to mail bomb suspect

At least two Twitter accounts linked to the man suspected of sending explosive devices to more than a dozen prominent Democrats were suspended on Friday afternoon.

Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, was apprehended by federal law enforcement officers in Florida on Friday morning. “Though we’re still analyzing the devices in our laboratory, these are not hoax devices,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a press briefing. Facebook moved fairly quickly to suspend Sayoc’s account on the platform, though two Twitter accounts that appeared to belong to Sayoc remained online and accessible until around 2:30 p.m. Pacific. Both accounts featured numerous tweets, many of which contained far-right political conspiracy theories, graphic images and specific threats. TechCrunch was able to review the accounts extensively before they were removed. Both known accounts, @hardrockintlet and @hardrock2016, contained many tweets that appeared to threaten violence against perceived political enemies, including Keith Ellison and Joe Biden,
Continue reading "Twitter suspends accounts linked to mail bomb suspect"

Twitter beats Wall St Q3 estimates with $758M in revenue

Twitter came in ahead of analysts’ financial estimates in its third quarter, reporting $758 million in revenue (a 29 percent year-over-year increase) and earnings per share of 21 cents.

Analysts had predicted revenue of $703 million and EPS of 14 cents per share. Ad revenue was also up 29 percent, to $650 million, and Twitter says total ad engagements increased 50 percent year over year. However, user growth didn’t quite match expectations, with 326 monthly active users, lower than predictions of 330 million, and also a decline from the same period last year, when Twitter had 335 million MAUs. In the earnings release, the company says its user growth was “impacted by a number of factors including: GDPR, decisions we have made to prioritize the health of the platform and not move to paid SMS carrier relationships in certain markets, as well as a product change that reduced automated usage
Twitter MAU
Continue reading "Twitter beats Wall St Q3 estimates with $758M in revenue"

Tim Berners-Lee on the huge sociotechnical design challenge

In a speech discussing ethics and the Internet, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has tasked the technology industry and its coder army with paying continuous attention to the world their software is consuming as they go about connecting humanity through technology.

Coding must mean consciously grappling with ethical choices in addition to architecting systems that respect core human rights like privacy, he suggested. “Ethics, like technology, is design,” he told delegates at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) which is taking place in Brussels this week. “As we’re designing the system, we’re designing society. Ethical rules that we choose to put in that design [impact the society]… Nothing is self evident. Everything has to be put out there as something that we think we will be a good idea as a component of our society.” If your
Continue reading "Tim Berners-Lee on the huge sociotechnical design challenge"

Envoy raises $43 million to digitize your office

The office might not seem like an area in desperate need of disruption, but Envoy — a Silicon Valley company used to sign in over 100,000 visitors at offices across the world each day; and a TechCrunch SF office neighbor!has raised $43 million to do just that.

The company started life five years digitizing the sign-in book with a simple iPad-based approach, and it has moved on to office deliveries with an automated system that simply involves scanning a barcode. In both cases, alerts are routed directly to the person collecting the goods or visitor using an app. The concept is simple: no more pen and paper, no calls or prompts, everything goes digital. The result is an easier life for office workers and more efficiency for front desk staff, who have more time for important items. A basic version of Envoy is available for free, but the
Continue reading "Envoy raises $43 million to digitize your office"

Twitter says it has removed several accounts affiliated with Infowars and Alex Jones

Twitter has cleared more Infowars related accounts off its platform. The company told CNN today that it permanently suspended 18 accounts affiliated with the far-right website, known for spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories, on Monday after “numerous violations and warnings.” It added the removals were in addition to five Infowars affiliated accounts that had been already been banned.

Alex Jones and Infowars, which he launched in 1999, had their accounts permanently suspended by Twitter last month, one of the last major social media platforms to do so. Infowars, however, had been using affiliated accounts to get around the ban and promote its content, according to a Daily Beast report last week. These included the accounts of Infowars’ “Real News” show, the Infowars store (which sells Jones’ line of dietary supplements) and “News Wars,” which promoted videos by Infowars. All of these accounts, and several others, were mentioned in the
Continue reading "Twitter says it has removed several accounts affiliated with Infowars and Alex Jones"

Egypt and Thailand: When the military turns against free speech

Wael Abbas, a human rights activist focused on police brutality in Egypt has been under arrest since May on charges of spreading fake news and “misusing social media.” Andy Hall, a labor rights researcher, has been fighting charges under Thailand’s computer crime laws because of a report published online that identified abuses of migrant workers.

You wouldn’t normally mention Egypt and Thailand in the same breath. But both countries underwent military coups within the last five years, and even among the many oppressive regimes in the world, they are going to extra lengths today to prosecute free speech.  Abbas and Hall are just two examples of hundreds of recent prosecutions. In 2017 alone, Egyptian security forces
Continue reading "Egypt and Thailand: When the military turns against free speech"

Comments as a Platform, Or Silencing the Trolls


Web content has typically divided into three camps - those who create, those who react, and those who just watch. The lurkers, if you will. From the very earliest days of blogging, those first posts awaited the inevitable comments, and, given a clear revenue stream, you would see early participants like Fred Wilson say that "comments are how bloggers get paid."

[Source: https://vanelsas.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/the-real-value-of-social-media-interaction/#comment-2531]

The earliest engagements we had with people who read our site gave us incredible discussions, and spawned more posts and even, in rare cases, changed minds. Sites like Digg, Reddit, Slashdot and others became known for their diverse threads, and those in the comments are why you showed up.

But we've also seen the pendulum swing the other way. Everybody knows to "never read the comments" on popular news sites, as the most aggressive vitriol
Continue reading "Comments as a Platform, Or Silencing the Trolls"

A Twitter employee groomed by the Saudi government prompted 2015 state-sponsored hacking warning

An explosive report in The New York Times this weekend sheds new light on the apparent targeting of Twitter accounts by “state-sponsored actors” three years ago.

It comes in the wake of the confirmed death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Friday, two weeks after he disappeared in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi had long been a target of a Saudi troll army, according to the report, which employed hundreds of people to stifle the speech of government critics, like Khashoggi, who left the kingdom to live and work in the United States. But the troll farm is said to be one part of a wider scheme by the Saudi leadership to surveil critics and dissidents. According to the report, Western intelligence officials told Twitter that one of its employees, a Saudi national, was asked by the Saudi government to spy on the accounts of dissidents. The
Continue reading "A Twitter employee groomed by the Saudi government prompted 2015 state-sponsored hacking warning"

Facebook launches ‘Hunt for False News’ debunk blog as fakery drops 50%

Facebook hopes detailing concrete examples of fake news it’s caught — or missed — could improve news literacy, or at least prove it’s attacking the misinformation problem. Today Facebook launched “The Hunt for False News,” in which it examines viral B.S., relays the decisions of its third-party fact-checkers and explains how the story was tracked down. The first edition reveals cases where false captions were put on old videos, people were wrongfully identified as perpetrators of crimes or real facts were massively exaggerated.

The blog’s launch comes after three recent studies showed the volume of misinformation on Facebook has dropped by half since the 2016 election, while Twitter’s volume hasn’t declined as drastically. Unfortunately, the remaining 50 percent still threatens elections, civil discourse, dissident safety and political unity across the globe. In one of The Hunt’s first examples, it debunks that a man who posed for a photo
Continue reading "Facebook launches ‘Hunt for False News’ debunk blog as fakery drops 50%"

Twitter tests out ‘annotations’ in Moments

Twitter is trying out a small new change to Moments that would provide contextual information within its curated stories. Spotted by Twitter user @kwatt and confirmed by a number of Twitter product team members, the little snippets appear sandwiched between tweets in a Moment.

Called “annotations” — not to be confused with Twitter’s metadata annotations of yore — the morsels of info aim to clarify and provide context for the tweets that comprise Twitter’s curated trending content. According to the product team, they are authored by Twitter’s curation group. In our testing, annotations only appear on the mobile app and not on the same Moments on desktop. So far we’ve seen them on a story about the NFL, one about Moviepass and another about staffing changes in the White House. While it’s a tiny feature tweak, annotations are another

Continue reading "Twitter tests out ‘annotations’ in Moments"